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Settling

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Karmafan posted 5/3/2021 09:29 AM

Dear SI friends,

I am timidly dipping my toe in the sharks infested waters of OLD again, not to lose my conversation skills if nothing else, and one thing has become apparent to me.

With age, we naturally become more discerning where dating is concerned and our requirements are more strict than they would have been, say, in our twenties. Also, time has become such a commodity that we are not prepared to give it up for just anyone. The people we talk to are likely to be equally as fussy and unwilling to compromise, and this creates a paradox within the paradox, whereby the overwhelming choice doesn’t necessarily equate to loads of quality people who meet our criteria and whose criteria we also happen to meet. So my question is: do we strive for greatness and concede defeat if we don’t find it, or do we compromise a little and settle for ‘good enough’?

Case in hand. I had a date last Saturday with a perfectly nice guy. Conversation was easy and he was equally easy on the eye. Driving back, I was unsure if I wanted to see him again. I felt quite ‘meh’ about it. By the time I got home, I knew that would remain a first and only date. But that got me thinking: what if I never find someone who ticks all the boxes? Or someone who is perfect on paper but doesn’t give me butterflies? Or gives me butterflies but is unreliable? Is it even legitimate to expect all these things at this age, or is ‘perfectly good enough’ what I should be aiming for? Is being selective the same as being greedy? And is OLD to be blamed for a certain chronic indecision?

I’d be interested to hear your opinions


twicefooled posted 5/3/2021 10:03 AM

Excellent question.

I'm 44 and have been single since I was 37.

Over the past few years, I have come up with a very specific list of things that are non-negotiables for me (MUST have a consistent work history, MUST not have a history of addiction, MUST be an involved father, MUST not want to cohabitate until after all children have left the nest). Everything else would be up for debate.

I have been in the very best relationship of my life for the past 7 months. When we first met, I wasn't physically attracted to him but we had so much in common and our conversations were so comfortable that I gave him another date. THAT was where he really shined and he is The One for me. He gives me butterflies because he is such a good man, amazing father, etc.

Don't overthink your reactions. You are having them for a reason. No one should ever feel like they need to settle.

I multi-dated last summer and it helped me see that yes there are other options but when it feels right you don't want to see anyone else but them :)

freetogonow posted 5/3/2021 12:30 PM

I am not doing OLD and probably never will (but never say never, right?)

I have met a handful of men organically through activities we are mutually interested in.

My thought process goes like this.

I am not necessarily looking for someone who "ticks ALL the boxes".

I am looking for someone whom I'm interested enough in, to invest time getting to know them better. In practice it looks like this: "Hmm, I like the way that guy talks to people. I'd like to get to know him better."

And then, "Oh, I got to know him better and I saw one of my dealbreakers so he's crossed off the list."

When I see something interesting in someone else, or of value, something I like, I don't discard them until I see a dealbreaker.

My dealbreakers recently have been....someone did not use their words to tell me what they needed from me and instead punished me with silent treatment because I failed to properly read his mind. Nope, we're done.

But to decide after 1 date that someone didn't tick ALL my boxes? How could you possibly know that after 1 date?

I think that might be my benefit to not doing OLD but instead meeting people from real world activities. I get to see them non-romantically and decide if I want to proceed, rather than there is all this pressure that I'm meeting them for the first time to determine if there's any interest at all. What a crapshoot.

Karmafan posted 5/3/2021 13:46 PM

FTGN, sometimes you just know. There was not enough to hold my attention, not enough in common, no spark. I agree with you that a first date doesn’t give you all the answers and it took six for me to decide I liked my ex bf enough to take it to the next level. And eight to kiss the guy I was seeing at the beginning of the year. So I do take my time and I do give things time to develop. But I think you instinctively know, after a first date, if there’s potential or not. Dealbreakers are important of course, but so are non-negotiables: they are either there or they are not.

Twicefooled, I am familiar with your story and I love the fact that you took your time before dating, to become whole again, and I think that break allowed you to be ready when the right guy came along. I am ten months out (my LT relationship) and at a point where I miss the intimacy of being with someone again. But unwilling to settle on just anyone.

AnnieOakley posted 5/3/2021 14:39 PM

I too am not willing to settle. I’ve mentioned this often here but I started OLD for the first time ever last January. Tried match, OKC, eharm and bumble. I gave it 15 months and shut the final one down early in April.

I dated one man for about 3 months. I eventually became suspicious of his age. His profile said he was 7 years younger and I confirmed it initially. I did a lot of digging. He was either my age or 1 year younger. When asked directly a second time he joked, teased, deflected and did not answer. Then he slowly ghosted me as I never saw him in person again. I suspect he knew he was going to be questioned a final time...which he would have been.

So honesty is something I won’t compromise on.

I understand that unexpected things happen, but I lost count of the guys that didn’t answer for a phone date. Would literally reschedule at the very last moment or text 45 mins later they are now available. Show up 15 mins late to an in person date. And LITERALLY NEVER an apology. I don’t compromise on basic manners either. “You teach people how to treat you...”

I respectfully decline any further contact and wish them well. It began to feel like a power struggle of some sort or just laziness. I don’t have time for either and won’t excuse/settle for it.

My last date a month ago was shorter and heavier (honesty concern) than his profile. Guess that is why he didn’t have any full length pics. Nice guy, lawyer, pleasant, but no physical attraction.

I’m coming out of my CV19 bubble a bit, taking private salsa lessons, so who knows what the future will bring.

I’m lonely, but I am cautiously optimistic for the rest of the year.

[This message edited by AnnieOakley at 8:45 PM, May 3rd (Monday)]

TheLostOne2020 posted 5/3/2021 16:14 PM

There's a book that's called, I think, The Science of Happily ever after. You should read it.

What twicefooled has said is right on the money:

Over the past few years, I have come up with a very specific list of things that are non-negotiables for me (MUST have a consistent work history, MUST not have a history of addiction, MUST be an involved father, MUST not want to cohabitate until after all children have left the nest). Everything else would be up for debate.

No one is going to check all your boxes. No one is the perfect person. We find a person who checks the important boxes - like twicefooled suggests. I'm not saying her boxes should be your boxes, but you have to have 3 or 4 non negotiables. Keep in mind ever box you add is a further winnowing of the dating pool.

You shouldn't feel like you're settling, but you also shouldn't expect someone to be the 'everything' that there could possibly be in a romantic partner.

Karmafan posted 5/3/2021 17:33 PM

TLO2020, I never said I was looking for perfection, I just said there are certain qualities I am not willing to compromise on. These are necessarily individual and cannot be borrowed from anyone else, or a book. I did read ‘the science of happily ever after’ by the way, and although I agree that we cannot realistically expect to find everything we want in a partner, and need to prioritise certain aspects, I am not so keen on the concept that a relationship can be reduced to a formula. Also, call me shallow, but chemistry and physical attraction are important to me, and I don’t see them as decoys the way the author does.

Annie, I am glad you understand where I am coming from. We are probably limiting our choices by being selective but, having settled in the past and been miserable, I don’t wish a repeat any time soon.

Palmetto9213 posted 5/3/2021 19:42 PM

Karmafan, the limited size of the dating pool gets even smaller as we get older....I'm in my 60's, and I am struggling with the same dilemma- Am I being too picky? Should I give them more chances (dates) so I can get to know more about them? Ultimately, I agree that time IS a commodity and I/we must choose how to spend it... so for me, that means not 'settling.' and not ignoring that little voice that tells me `Nope--one and done with this person`.

I love Freetogonow's perspective that "I am not necessarily looking for someone who "ticks ALL the boxes". I am looking for someone whom I'm interested enough in, to invest time getting to know them better.

I don't think you're being "greedy", you're just being selective and you will know when you have met someone who is worth the investment of your time to get to know them better.

Karmafan posted 5/4/2021 05:11 AM

Ultimately, I agree that time IS a commodity and I/we must choose how to spend it... so for me, that means not 'settling.' and not ignoring that little voice that tells me `Nope--one and done with this person`.

Exactly Palmetto. You have got to listen to that voice!

grubs posted 5/4/2021 08:09 AM

I never said I was looking for perfection, I just said there are certain qualities I am not willing to compromise on.

Its been a decade now, but I found a had much better success when I was more selective and less worried about the outcome. There were questions to answer that you could use to compare match %. I had answered over 1500 of them before I deleted them all and only answered those that I had a strong opinion on. That really narrowed in on those who were truly compatible in the ways that mattered most to me. The less worried about the outcome let me move on more quickly from those that just didn't feel right.

AnnieOakley posted 5/4/2021 10:23 AM

Many years ago I remember telling my single friends at the time “find the person with the set of faults that you can live with”.

That’s been my mantra to myself as well.

I’m making my way thru the book The Science of Happily Ever After. It should probably be required reading for every younger person as it focuses heavily at times on choosing a partner to have children with so while statistically I get it, I gloss over those areas. Otherwise at this point in the reading it has rather reaffirmed what or how I was prioritizing what remains important to me and what is further down the list or maybe crossed off completely for the right man! 😉

Karmafan posted 5/4/2021 11:15 AM

It should probably be required reading for every younger person as it focuses heavily at times on choosing a partner to have children with so while statistically I get it, I gloss over those areas.

Every relationship I have had taught me something. A dealbreaker that hadn’t occurred to me before, a quality that I used to consider non negotiable but that did not add much value in the end. Examples from my most recent relationship. Dealbreaker: avarice and stinginess. Overrated quality: a PhD (or any postgraduate education).

My point is, to expect to teach younger generations the formula for long lasting relationships fails intellectually IMO in that it doesn’t take life experience into account. You can’t learn life from a book. As cliche as it sounds, you only learn from your mistakes.

Our list of requirements, or faults we can put up with, is dictated by our very own experiences. It’s not something we have concocted or dreamed up or borrowed from a book. They have been tried and tested on our own skin.

[This message edited by Karmafan at 12:45 PM, May 4th (Tuesday)]

dogcopter posted 5/4/2021 11:59 AM

As someone whose just starting his journey into singledom, these are important questions that loom on the horizon and sometimes feel closer and more urgent than one would initially think. "Will I end up alone?" echoed around inside me on the way out the door.

So I don't feel qualified to answer per se, but I do have thoughts that have been pervasive.

For one, I think the reason I stayed so long was that in so many ways she checked all the "visible" boxes. Every now and then, I would find out what she was doing when I wasn't there, but that wasn't the real her. The real her was the one I was looking at everyday, the one that checked so many boxes for me. The other double life was a pesky irratant that kept popping up from time to time. It wasn't until I acknowledged the full list including the hidden boxes that I realized she's not the perfect one for me.

I imagine that when I start dating I will be looking at all these hidden boxes that I was never looking at as a younger me. And that sounds like what you are doing and I think that is normal.

I don't have much advice for you, just some reflections and some well wishes. I am sorry that someone threw away large investments in love you made early on in life. I don't believe that you should settle. Depending on how you look at it, you might think that you settled the first time without knowing it because those hidden boxes (truthful when it is inconvenient, good conduct when your back is turned) were never really checked.

Good luck to you in OLD! (this is not a great acronym for this btw)

Karmafan posted 5/4/2021 13:15 PM

There were questions to answer that you could use to compare match %. I had answered over 1500 of them before I deleted them all and only answered those that I had a strong opinion on.

Grubs, you reminded me of a dating app I used years ago that used an algorithm to match people up, based on personality traits and interests in common. A compatibility % was then generated. That very clever app delivered my ex boyfriend so I stopped believing in algorithms altogether

I imagine that when I start dating I will be looking at all these hidden boxes that I was never looking at as a younger me. And that sounds like what you are doing and I think that is normal.

Dogcopter, you really understood my point perfectly. The list in question is an ever changing one, based of what life put us through. Needless to say, the main contributors are the people who hurt us the most


BetrayedGamer posted 5/4/2021 13:58 PM

I just shared a meme today, ironically posted by one of the STBXWW's friends. It said, "You can't be happy by expecting perfection. You can only be happy by looking past imperfections."

That really hit me, applying to both my current situation and future OLD. I think a lot of betrayed people go into OLD with the mindset that they deserve the best (which is true) so in order to get the best you have to reject every imperfection you find after every date. The problem there is I think it's going to the opposite extreme. There's a middle ground, a grey area. There is no perfect match, therefore by expecting to find it your OLD journey is going to be endless rejections.

I think the key is to decide which imperfections you can live with, weighed against the boxes that are checked that you like, so that the net sum you are happy with. Also, imperfections I think in the right context make a relationship better. I know for me I'd sort of like to have a relationship with someone of a different political view, to explore conversations with. I've also found people I've had a relationship with that had different hobbies ended up exposing me to things I wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise.

I just feel that requirements in OLD need to be flexible, open-minded, a balancing act. Sure everyone should have "red flags" that are non-negotiable...but if that guy/girl leaves the toilet seat up/down but is perfect otherwise, is it really smart to reject them?

EllieKMAS posted 5/4/2021 14:11 PM

I think the difference for me now as a BS is that I will no longer ignore those giant red flags or put an optimistic "but" on them like I did before. I expect imperfections and baggage to an extent - I don't think anyone hits 40+ without some of that. But I also expect someone to be on par with me in regards to being introspective and self-reflective enough to own their shit, learn from their missteps, and love themselves healthily enough to be able to love someone else in a healthy way.

I don't expect someone to check all the boxes, but will not entertain folks that check any of the red flag ones. BTDT and learned my lesson from it.

BetrayedGamer posted 5/4/2021 14:15 PM

I think the difference for me now as a BS is that I will no longer ignore those giant red flags or put an optimistic "but" on them like I did before. I expect imperfections and baggage to an extent - I don't think anyone hits 40+ without some of that. But I also expect someone to be on par with me in regards to being introspective and self-reflective enough to own their shit, learn from their missteps, and love themselves healthily enough to be able to love someone else in a healthy way.
I don't expect someone to check all the boxes, but will not entertain folks that check any of the red flag ones. BTDT and learned my lesson from it.

That's an awesome way to sum it up. 200 percent agree.

Karmafan posted 5/4/2021 18:12 PM

I think the key is to decide which imperfections you can live with, weighed against the boxes that are checked that you like, so that the net sum you are happy with.

Very true BG, but imperfections are quite different from red flags. Imperfections are negotiable, red flags aren’t.

But I also expect someone to be on par with me in regards to being introspective and self-reflective enough to own their shit, learn from their missteps, and love themselves healthily enough to be able to love someone else in a healthy way.

Absolutely Ellie. One thing that makes me want to run a mile is any hint of narcissism. When the person talks about themselves monologue-style, but doesn’t really ask questions or shows a genuine interest in your story.

[This message edited by Karmafan at 6:13 PM, May 4th (Tuesday)]

phmh posted 5/4/2021 22:03 PM

I have not read The Science of Happily Ever After in over 6 years now, but I don't remember there being a formula - what I remember is that you really only get 3 non-negotiables before you narrow your dating pool so much, so you need to make sure your non-negotiables are something that will lead to a partner with whom you are likely compatible.

After reading this book (as well as an article in The Atlantic called "Masters of Love" - also from 2014), I thought about it a lot and my 3 were; kindness, supports himself, actions match words.

Then I had the best single summer of my life and met my now-SO (of 5.5 years) when I was least expecting it. I likely would have broken up with him after a few months for a ridiculous reason, but I thought about the book and realized that with all of his good qualities, breaking up because of something completely silly was not a smart move since the relationship was progressing well in all aspects that actually mattered, and he had my big 3. And I'm so glad I did.

Where I think this book helps is people who are choosing superficial non-negotiables. I have a friend whose non-negotiable was: has a man-bun. So she dated a ton of guys who were completely incompatible with her because hair has nothing to do with compatibility! (She is in IC, read the book, and is now happily dating a bald guy for over a year.)

My SO has a friend and I've explained the concept in the book to him because he's been single for over 6 years and really wants to be in a relationship. His 3 non-negotiables? She must be at least 5'8", constantly wear high heels, and be a beautiful blonde. He actually joked that there are probably only 6 women in the country that meet his lofty requirements. None of those things matter about who will be a good partner! (And guess who still hasn't been on a date in over 6 years?)

I also remember reading something about being careful about chemistry or just knowing as that often means the person has very similar qualities to a previous relationship, and you feel that chemistry because it seems familiar. One guy I totally fell for and dated off and on for a few months, with hindsight, was so much like my WXH. So glad I dodged that bullet!

All this to say, I think it depends on how you define settle. I loved being single, and was not willing to settle on anything important to me, but if I were designing my ideal partner, he'd have other traits than ones my SO has, so in a way you can say I settled (and he would say he settled because of certain interests I do or do not have).

Like I'd love to have a life partner that ran marathons with me (I actually had that with WXH, and it was fabulous!) But I'd rather have a quality person who is supportive of my running, plans trips so I can run a marathon in a new state, and drops me off at 4am to catch the bus to the start line.

To answer your last question, I do think OLD plays a role in this. There's no getting to know someone in person slowly, like through an activity group, which makes the first date pressure-filled for many. And if the person doesn't come off 100%, you know that there are dozens or hundreds more that you can date (depending on your location). When I was first OLD (and not ready to date), I had so many ridiculous reasons for not having a second date with someone - part of this was me not being ready, but I also knew that it didn't really matter since there were many more where that one came from. Not proud of thinking that way, but I had many guys tell me the same thing.

Anna123 posted 5/5/2021 18:51 PM

And is OLD to be blamed for a certain chronic indecision?

One of my first OL Dates I met compared OLD to a buffet---- People being so quick to move on, trying a little of this, a little of that, knowing some other option will come along. Kind of relates to our instant news and scrolling social media culture. Do you think if you had met him in another natural way, and there was no "Match" to go back and pick the next date from, would you a wanted a second date?

I have also discovered that having that idea when we meet on Match that we are there for the reason of "finding the one" ---becomes an odd sort of pressure if we progress to the next few dates.

It is kind of fun though knowing that potential to find 'the one' is there!

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